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I‘ve often gotten the question from other Evangelical Christians about Mormon faith, whether it’s a cult, whether or not they should feel okay about voting for a Mormon. I have had two answers:
First, Mormonism is not a cult in my view. It has cult-like qualities, but so does American Evangelicalism (or Roman Catholicism for that matter). However, I do not think that Mormonism is part of Christianity. Mormonism is its own religion with it’s own traditions, theology, and teaching that are separate and distinct from Christianity. The main kicker for me comes down to their view of the Bible. The best way I can describe it to say that The Book of Mormon is to the Bible what the Koran is to the Torah (the first five books of the OT). When you compare Christianity and Mormonism there are just too many differences that matter: the Trinity, divinity of Jesus, status of the Bible, etc. -Mormonism is not part of the Christian faith.
Second, I don’t see any reason that a Christian couldn’t vote for a Mormon based on their religious beliefs. I think there are many reasons our faith would compel us not to vote for Mitt Romney, as there are many reasons our faith would compel us not to vote for Barack Obama, but I wouldn’t vote against Mitt based on his Mormon faith.
That being said, I do have two persistent concerns with the candidate Romney’s faith. These are concerns not because he’s a Mormon, but because he’s a Mormon running for president. The two concerns are 1) Mormon soteriology and women, which I hope to write about once I get a chance to do more reading. 2) Mormon theology and race.
The second issue is the focus of yesterday’s article by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast which articulates a legitimate concern. Sullivan notes that blacks were never permitted to be a full participant in the church until 1970. Mormons revised their teaching, which is a really good thing. But it troubles many that Romney never opposed the churches teaching on race prior to that change.
“When 150 self-identified evangelical leaders met in Texas in January to decide on a candidate to support in the Republican primaries, Romney — then the front-runner in the campaign — got four votes, according to an evangelical advisor, Mark DeMoss, who cast one of the votes himself.
There are fewer concerns about evangelical support today, even with Romney’s selection of a Roman Catholic, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, as his running mate.
“It’s our belief that the great irony of this election will be [that] you’ll have the first ticket without a Protestant on it, and that ticket will get the highest support by evangelical voters of any ticket in history,” said Gary Marx, executive director of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition. “That’s going to be the great irony — supporting a Mormon-Catholic ticket at record levels, and I think that’s already showing up in the polling data.””
The party line for evangelicals has been that they are urging people to vote for the candidate who shares their values, an obvious tip of the hat to Romney’s stance on abortion and gay marriage. Many Christians have pointed out that caring for the poor and seeing that wealth doesn’t concentrate in the hands of a few rich while the poor suffer should be considered Christian values as well. This focus on “shares our values” is a purposeful strategy that seems to be working.
“A vast effort has gone into selling Romney to conservative evangelicals, led in part by Marx and his boss, Faith and Freedom founder Ralph Reed, and by such figures as Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and DeMoss, an evangelical publicist who has served as an unofficial liaison between Romney and the evangelical community since before the 2008 presidential campaign.
“A number of us have been trying to shift the conversation from theology to values,” DeMoss said. “I’m more interested in a candidate who shares my values than if he or she shares my theology. And indeed, as an evangelical and a conservative, I have more in common with many Mormons than I would with a liberal Southern Baptist.”